From Pouch to Ouch

Diverticulitis - Dr. Prasanna Shah
Not just a pain in the stomach – Diverticulitis can be serious. Dr. Prasanna Shah explains

This common disease can become deadly in an instant from pouch to ouch

Diverticulitis a condition where small pouches develop in the muscle of the wall of the intestine and colon; these are called diverticula.

The inflammation of these pouches is called Diverticulitis and the disease is called Diverticular disease. It is considered a serious medical condition, and it commonly affects the elderly, particularly the Parsi community in India.

Diverticulosis affects more than half of those over the age of 70. It is most common among older people who eat meat and follow a ‘Western’ diet. Symptoms typically include lower abdominal pain of sudden onset, but it may also occur over a few days. There may also be nausea; and diarrhea or constipation. Fever or blood in the stool suggests a complication. Repeated attacks may occur.

The causes of diverticulitis are uncertain, but there are few risk factors that may include obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, a family history of the disease, and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Signs and symptoms

While people with diverticulosis often show no symptoms, the presence of diverticula may be indicated by:

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Pain or bloating in the abdomen
  • Flatulence
  • Anaemia
  • Blood in faeces (medical/surgical emergency)

Diverticulitis symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Sharp pain in the abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • On examination, tenderness in the area of the diverticula

Diagnosing diverticular disease can be difficult, because of the limited symptoms, but medical tests, including a physical examination, a colonoscopy, CT scan, barium enema, and stool or blood tests, can confirm the condition. However, if perforation is suspected then one cannot do a barium enema.

The treatment is to seek immediate medical help and if there are alarm symptoms like bleeding, fever, and pain, one has to get admitted to the hospital. Antibiotics and stool softeners are given to treat this disease.

While there is no known way to prevent diverticular disease, increasing your consumption of fibrous vegetables, exercising regularly, and staying hydrated all help to manage the condition.

About Dr Prasanna Shah

Dr Prasanna Shah is a leading Consultant Interventional Gastroenterologist and is attached to the Breach Candy, Jaslok and Saifee Hospitals in Mumbai.

View all posts by Dr Prasanna Shah

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